2nd Anniversary of Stalking laws: CALL FOR ACTION ON STALKING PROSECUTIONS
In a briefing published today ( 21st November) by Plaid Cymru and Digital-Trust, latest figures from parliamentary answers show that over a 1,000 individuals have been prosecuted under the new stalking laws brought into force on 25th November 2012. The introduction of these laws followed in the wake of a high-profile campaign and independent parliamentary inquiry chaired by Plaid’s Westminster leader, Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd MP, and advised by Harry Fletcher, now Director of the Digital-Trust and Laura Richards, a criminal psychologist.
Parliamentary answers show that there are significant and worrying variations between Police areas for prosecutions for stalking. Under section 2a, Magistrates courts for example there were 50 in Greater Manchester but only 10 in Merseyside, and in South Yorkshire there were 12 but in West Yorkshire there were 28. This may well be a reflection of Training and Force priorities.
The figures also reveal that there has been a 39% increase in the number of restraining orders which were breached, followed by a finding of guilt over the last two years.
According to the Solicitor General, there has been a 20% increase in the number of persons charged with stalking in the last two years, and during that period, over 750 cases were brought to justice which would not have been charged under the old laws.
Figures have also shown that only 40% of eligible police staff have undergone training in the new stalking laws. Parliamentary answers have also shown that the number of police officers completing the training varies hugely between different police areas. By January 2014, Derby had 2,103 staff complete the training, compared with just 186 in Avon and Somerset. The figures also show that the completion rate in West Yorkshire was 6,026, compared with 29 in neighbouring South Yorkshire. The numbers completing the training in Northamptonshire was 1,501, compared with 87 in Thames Valley.
Figures for the Crown Prosecution Service show that roughly half of all prosecutors have been trained in implementing the new laws. It is, however, of concern that parliamentary answers from October 2014 show that the numbers of trained staff is decreasing because of a reduction in employee head count.
Commenting, Elfyn Llwyd said “The number of prosecutions is encouraging but evidently compare adversely with the numbers brought to justice in Scotland. Scotland appear per capita to be prosecuting three times as many people as in England and Wales. There is an urgent need for research to examine why the outcomes so different across the UK.”
Harry Fletcher, Director of Digital-Trust, said “There has been an improvement in the number of criminal justice professionals trained, but it is of some concern that police officers are required to undertake e-learning in their own time. We believe that this practice needs to be revised and provided in-house.”
The briefing paper recommends:
- That training for all criminal justice professionals be escalated and that staff be allowed to complete this training during work hours;
- That a thorough investigation should be conducted by the UK government to examine why the number of prosecutions brought in Scotland is higher per capita than in England and Wales;
- That the Ministry of Justice should provide treatment in custody and the community for perpetrators;
- That the Ministry of Justice should publish details of outcomes of stalking prosecutions;
- That the CPS should publish information relating to charging decisions in respect of 2A and 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act (1997).